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Slow Start Sinks Spartans

The MSU Hockey team squandered an opportunity for 2nd place Friday night

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

With the out of town scoreboard setting up great for the Michigan State Spartans hockey team, they took the ice at 9:00 PM EST Friday night with the chance to take sole possession of 2nd place in the Big Ten standings. Unfortunately, the Spartans took the ice tentatively and sleep walked their way through a 2-1 defeat to the Wisconsin Badgers. The Spartans instead remained two points behind Michigan for second place and now sit five points behind league leader Minnesota.

The first period Friday night was an assault on the game of hockey. Think Wisconsin basketball on steroids as neither team made a concerted effort to play hockey. The name of the game was dump and chase with little regard for actually chasing. There was a total of 14 shots between the two teams and it was difficult to find any reason to be excited, especially with a sea of empty seats in the Kohl Center.

Finally, in the second period Wisconsin broke through for the game's first goal with defenseman Chase Drake scoring off a face-off. For as much pride as the Spartans take in blocking shots, the coverage on the face-off left a lot to be desired as the forward was slow to get out to the blue line, giving Drake a clear lane to shoot through. The game winning goal for the Badgers was scored with less than 30 seconds to go in the second period when Kevin Schulze rifled a wrist shot over the shoulder of Jake Hildebrand. Grant Besse made a tremendous individual play getting past a Spartans defenseman and circling behind the net before passing the puck to Schulze in the face-off circle.

The Spartans to their credit did respond with a strong third period, outshooting the Badgers 15-4. Joe Cox brought the Spartans to within one goal at 2:11 of the 3rd period, scoring a power play goal. Ryan Keller took the puck behind the net and drew the attention of three Wisconsin penalty killers. With their eyes on Keller the Badgers defense lost track of Joe Cox who settled in between all four players wide open in the slot as Keller thread a beautiful pass that Cox made no mistake of depositing behind Joel Rumpel. The Spartans had some great chances down the stretch but failed to force the game to overtime.

Tonight the Spartans will play the Badgers at 8:00 EST and with no TV coverage, which may be good for young hockey players to not watch if the game plays out like Friday. Hopefully Tom Anastos and crew ditch the 1-2-2 forecheck against a young Wisconsin team and play as the aggressor tonight. Getting out of Madison with anything less than 3 points is an absolute disappointment.

Extra Pucks in the Bag

  • Recruit Marcel Godbout (Chicago Steel-USHL) was named a co-recipient of the CCM Forward of the Week.
  • Defenseman recruit Zach Osburn scored a goal last night for Chicago in their 3-2 win over Green Bay.
  • Former Spartans goaltender Jeff Lerg improved to 22-5-1-1 as the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) beat Cincinnati 3-1. The Walleye are 2nd place in their division.
  • Kyle Haak (Okemos, MI) scored a hat-trick in the Aberdeen Wings' (NAHL) 4-3 win over the Minot Minotauros. Haak, an uncommitted forward, has 14 goals and 29 assists to lead his team in scoring and will be playing at the NAHL Top Prospects showcase in Ann Arbor Monday and Tuesday. Haak is probably best known for being my cousin #Nepotism. (Yes I put that in because he's my cousin only, no shame).